2 Chronicles 20: Everyone in Judah was there – little children, wives, sons – all present and attentive to God.
It’s not as though Judah is a world superpower or anything like that. It’s a small nation surrounded by other small nations that are situated between some very big players on the world scene. When Jehoshaphat receives word that some of the neighboring countries have united to attack Judah he knows he’s in big trouble. We’re told, “Shaken, Jehoshaphat prayed.” Not only does the king pray but he calls his nation to prayer and fasting. They cry out to God to literally save their lives, reminding the Lord that they’re descendants of Abraham. It’s a desperate crowd that gathers in Jerusalem to cry out to God. And everyone’s there. It’s not just the soldiers or the leaders or even the heads of households. Everyone comes: men, women, and children. I can just imagine the children looking on wide-eyed as their parents and all the other adults cry out to God for his intervention. I know that the purpose of this story isn’t for me to think about children and prayer meetings and such, but the topic does come to mind. In most churches today we tend to divide families. Children go to some program organized just for them and teens are placed under the ministry of some capable youth leader. The adults, then, have “their” Bible study or prayer meeting. Generally speaking, I’m all for it. After all, I don’t want to see the kids just marking time while the parents talk about things that are meaningless to the boys and girls. Still, there’s something powerful in children seeing their parents pray heartfelt prayers or watching their parents be involved in a passionate discussion about the things of God. They might not understand all that’s going on but they understand that these spiritual things matter to the grownups. I’m not suggesting that we do away with Children’s Church or the Youth program of the church but I do think that we ought not to be in too big a hurry to dismiss them from all adult oriented activities of the church.
Take Away: If children never see their parents pray intercessory prayers and worship from the depths of their hearts how will they ever learn to do such things?
Bible studies and prayer meetings
John 5: These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you.
It all starts when Jesus heals a lame man with the order to pick up his bed roll and walk. The wonderful miracle is lost on the religious leaders because it takes place on the Sabbath. Never mind the miracle, they insist, what’s this about telling people to carry things on the Sabbath? Pitiful, isn’t it. When these leaders angrily challenge Jesus he does nothing to calm them down. Rather, he identifies himself with his Heavenly Father and claims his support and direction in all he does. How in the world do they think they can win an argument with the man who just worked a miracle? Jesus moves on to point out that they, Bible scholars that they are, know all about what the Scriptures say about the Messiah. He tells them it’s time to get their heads out of their Bibles and look in the eye the one testified about by those very Scriptures. Silly religious leaders! They’ve given their lives to knowing God’s Word and have now missed the Living Word of God standing right in front of them. How could they ever think that Bible study is better than fellowship with the Lord who is right there with them? I’m glad we Christians today know better. We’d rather spend five minutes in the literal presence of the Lord than an hour of debating some obscure term from the Bible. Right? I know, I know, there’s a place for both. Still, I can’t help but note that Bible studies are generally better attended than prayer meetings.
Take Away: It’s better, if one must decide between the two, to know Jesus than to know the Bible. Happily, we don’t have to decide.
One more Bible study will do it
Jeremiah 8: They know everything but God’s Word.
My immediate reaction upon reading this line is that it’s a call to spend more time studying the Scriptures. After all, Bible study is a good thing; at least I hope so since I spend a lot of my time doing it. To be honest though, I don’t think that’s what Jeremiah is talking about. His listeners know what their Scriptures say and consider themselves to be “owners of God’s revelation.” In other words, they know the Scriptures and claim they’re written just for them. The problem isn’t that they don’t read God’s Word. Rather, it’s that they don’t listen to the word of the Lord! Through Jeremiah the Almighty is shouting out at them, trying to get their attention. They’re going in the wrong direction and need to turn around before it’s too late. While they’re faithfully going to Bible studies they’re ignoring what the Lord’s saying to them at that very moment! What an important reminder for us today. We have our KJV’s and our NIV’s and our NASB’s, and yes, our copies of The Message. We tune in to TBN or Sky Angel, listen to our Christian radio station, and then attend our Bible Studies. That’s just fine, in fact, that’s great. However, when the Lord bypasses all that stuff and speaks to our hearts what are we doing with it? Jeremiah says that even though they’re good at learning what the Scripture says they’re terrible at listening to the Lord when he speaks. Are we, and am I, doing the same?
Take Away: All the Bible study in the world won’t compensate for our ignoring what the Lord is saying to us this very moment.